The City of Rochester is making large investments in youth athletics with soccer as a focus.
The ribbon was cut on a new soccer field just outside of downtown Rochester on Wednesday in Troup Street Park near Exchange Street. Mayor Lovely Warren and City Councilman Mitch Gruber were on hand to pass the ball with a few kids as the first goals were scored.
Gruber, who lives nearby, says he’s seen kids play soccer in the park for years.
“To see it have these beautiful goals, to see all these kids come out and play, this is exactly what we need as a neighborhood and a community,” said Gruber.
Warren said the soccer field was installed at the park to accommodate the neighborhood's growing immigrant and refugee population. Hamadi Muya, a Somali refugee who immigrated to the U.S. over a decade ago, lives close to the field and says it will help his community embrace the sport.
“I’ve been playing soccer all my life,” Muya said. “For these kids not to have a field close to them is hard because they don’t have much transportation to go further to play somewhere else. So to have some place to play this close is really, really good.”
The soccer goals were provided by the Rochester City School District. The field will be also serve as a practice site for the more than 600 Rochester City Soccer League players. The league will hold some of their matches at the Former Marina Auto Stadium, which Warren has ambitious plans for.
“Our plan is to do everything we can to make that [former Marina Auto Stadium] a premiere youth sports facility,” said Warren.
The stadium, which sits on Oak Street near Jay Street, has been used sparingly in recent years. The city is paying just shy of $1 million a year to operate it.
Step one of Warren’s plans for the stadium is to renovate the 25,000 square foot McGuire Building next door for various youth sports activities. Department of Recreation Commissioner Danielle Lyman Torres said renovations would cost about $2 million; the city hopes to fund it through a grant from the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. foundation.
“They’ve come to Rochester,” Torres said. “They’ve seen the site. They know about the project and they have invited us to apply for capital support.”
Wilson owned the Buffalo Bills from their inception until his death in 2014. Locally, the foundation has given nearly $500,000 dollars to the Challenger Miracle League of Greater Rochester, $150,000 to the Rochester Presbytarian Home and over $5 million to the Rochester Area Community Foundation for an endowment fund.
If the grant isn’t approved or isn’t large enough, the city will consider other sources, including tax money.
“Once we know what support, if any, we will receive from that foundation, then we’ll be able to identify other sources and solidify where we’re going to get the rest of the funds from,” said Torres.
Torres said the city is also considering putting an enclosure on the stadium to make it operational in the winter months. She said that the city is still studying that option and does not know if it’s possible or how much it would cost.
Warren called the stadium an asset that she wants to use to give Rochester’s young athletes support.
“The future of the stadium is truly about investing in youth sports and that’s across the board,” she said. “Giving our young people access to opportunities that their suburban counterparts have.”